In Conversation: Abby Roberts

Beauty influencer and TikTok star is returning to her first passion - music...

“I feel like with art there's only so much you can say through visuals, which is why I've found music such a great emotional release and almost therapeutic.”

With 17M TikTok followers, Abby Roberts is undoubtedly the platform's biggest beauty creator. Now she sets her sights on the music industry.

After amassing such a devoted following online for her makeup artistry, the 20 year old Yorkshire lass has been granted the ability to return to a childhood passion – music.

While she continued to write lyrics and prose down in diaries and notes on her phone, music was gently pushed aside as her art and makeup career took off. But after becoming creatively restless these past few years, she knew she had to return to music properly.

Abby clearly understands that an influencer moving into music will raise some eyebrows. “People are going to have their opinion on it,” she shrugs. “I'm cautious of that and I don't want it to come across as another cash grab. It's been a great creative release for me and I hope the songwriting speaks for itself.” Besides, music has always been bubbling away in the background of her life… 

Clash spoke to Abby about her makeup artistry, her fashion, her musical influences, the importance of collaboration, creative freedom, and her new single,’Paramaniac’.

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Known for your makeup artistry, one thing I don’t think you get enough credit for is your fashion sense – how do you define your aesthetic?

I feel like I’m all over the place – I kind of just take inspiration from everywhere! I don’t want to put it into one specific box because I know people always want to put labels on it, but whenever I do that people get mad at it. If you say you’re dressed as a certain subculture everyone’s like ‘you’re not part of it!’ So I would just say it’s expressive, I dress how I feel on the day.

How can you describe the music creation process as opposed to creating a new makeup look?

I think it is very similar, and I didn’t realise that until I’d been doing music for a little while. There’s a similar approach, you find your inspiration and your references. The creation is obviously very different but I think the creativity still applies across in the same way of creative thinking.

The way I would write a song lyrically is similar to how I would come up with a concept. You don’t just want to do the first thing that comes to your head, you want to think of a smart way to do it. So it’s quite similar.

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In Conversation: Abby Roberts

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How is it when you're doing makeup for other musical artists? I saw you did Zara Larson, Liam Payne, Yungblud etc. Is it fun to see how far people like Yungblud will push the boat when it comes to performance makeup and do you take any creative ideas from doing the likes of musicians makeup, and then applying it to your own artistry?

It’s always fun getting to work on somebody else because I think how can I take inspiration from them and convert that through the makeup. When I’m doing my own makeup I would just do whatever I’m feeling, but getting to collaborate with other people and hearing their thoughts and feedback, I think it can create things that you wouldn’t have thought of before. So it can lead to some more interesting things.

Talk to me about your musical influences. What did you listen to growing up and has it changed at all since creating music yourself?

Growing up I didn’t find my specific musical tastes until quite late – I kind of just listened to whatever my parents would play, which was a lot of 80s, a lot of Queen, that kind of stuff.

It was not until 2012, my dad showed me Lana Del Rey for the first time and I was totally obsessed and in love with her for the rest of my life. So Lana Del Rey for sure is a big influence, especially lyrically. I like that she talks a lot about brutally honest emotional subjects, and you can really connect with that as a listener, and I try to do the same in my music as well.

Arctic Monkeys I love as well, a bit of a rocky influence which you can definitely hear in tracks like ‘Paramaniac’.

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In Conversation: Abby Roberts

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It’s no secret that TikTok and short form video have transformed the lives of many new musical artists – but what was it about your makeup style that you think lent itself to short form video, and why did people connect to your work so much?

I was doing Youtube way before TikTok, and I found a little bit of success from it – the first video I ever posted blew up and I had a little bit of success. But in the beginning I was just doing glam makeup and copying what other makeup artists were doing online, which I got bored of. And I came from an artistic background to begin with, I was always a painter at school and did Art at A Level. I got bored of doing that on paper and started putting it on my face instead!

It was then that I felt like it stood out from the crowd, and I noticed especially at the point that I joined TikTok that there wasn’t really anybody doing make up on there, let alone painting themselves as all sorts of crazy characters. I was just very lucky at the time that I did it but I was also very determined and committed to it, and did makeup every single day until somebody saw it!

Tell me about this theory on TikTok where they thought you were American pretending to be British – you’re a proud Yorkshire lass right?

It’s true! Leeds born and bred. For some reason everyone thought I was American.

TikTok is quite an American based audience, or at least it was in the very beginning. And most of my audience is actually US based. On TikTok it’s all using other people’s audios and songs, so you never really heard me talk in the beginning – so everyone must have assumed I was American for some reason. Then when I came on there speaking Yorkshire they were like ‘what is this, are you Scottish?’

Much like with your makeup looks, do you feel like when it comes to music, you can’t be caged in – there are no boundaries?

I agree with that as well. I feel like with my makeup I don’t really categorize myself as one specific genre of makeup – I just do it all. I have a similar approach to doing music, like I don’t want to say that my music is one specific genre and I just try and make music based on how I’m feeling. If I’m sad I make a sad song, if I’m angry I make an angry song! It just comes from the emotion and I think that same sort of feeling you can apply to make-up and music.

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In Conversation: Abby Roberts

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Can you talk me through some of the tracks and your inspirations for them?

My favourite track ‘Paramaniac’, the first single, I am very excited about. It’s my favourite because it’s the one where I felt more developed as an artist when I was creating.

I had a lot of experience in the studio at this point and it was the last song I made for the EP. I knew what gap I wanted to fill for the EP, we had some emotional, sad songs on there and I wanted to make one that was a bit more of a bop, bit of a banger. I feel like it summarises the EP quite well with it just being about my thoughts, a stream of consciousness, that whole vibe.

What would you say the overall presentation of the EP is?

The overall vibe is Abby’s emotions and brain. I touch on mental health also, there’s a song ‘Band-Aid’ that I wrote for my best friend who was really struggling with mental health issues, and it was the only way I felt like I could speak and connect with her on a level that I would be able to help – like not being there physically for somebody.

I think music has such an impact on people emotionally that it was the best thing that I could have done in that situation.

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♬ paramaniac – Abby Roberts

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Words: Oliver-James Campbell
Photo Credit: Sully

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